President Barack Obama recently signed a bill which provides health coverage to the first responders of 911. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, H.R. 847 went into effect on January 2, 2011. James Zadroga, was a New York City police detective who worked on the Ground Zero rescue. Mr. Zadroga died in 2006 from respiratory complications due to his inhalation of and exposure to poisonous fumes.
The fund establishes the World Trade Center Health Program and also expands compensation eligibility for the September 11th Compensation Funds established in 2001. Since the attacks on America nine years ago, rescue workers who responded to Ground Zero have suffered grave illnesses and personal anguish. Some have even died due to 9/11-related health complications. The smoke and debris they were exposed to ultimately caused irreparable respiratory difficulties and damage.
The $4.3 billion bill, drastically cut down from $7.4 billion, passed on the closing day of the 111th Congress. This bill which affects so many was detained by Senators Tom Coburn (R-O.K.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and others congressional members who argued that the program would cause more strain to the already strained federal budget and drive our country further into debt. They also maintained the program would be become easy prey to fraud and abuse. Once signed, representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called the signing "a wonderful victory for 9/11 responders and survivors who have been waiting for help for nine long years."
As to why this very important bill was named after just one of the many who lost their lives because of that dreadful day in American history; that still remains unclear.
President Obama's comments at the signing:
"I was honored to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students, and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Center disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need. We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers, and first responders who risked their lives to save others. I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks."